tv The Stream Al Jazeera October 25, 2013 2:30am-3:01am EDT
do it for this edition of al jazerra news, i am stef seu sy, thanks so much for watching. >> hi, i'm lisa fletcher and you are in the stream. a nickel mine in minnesota is it a false choice to tell minnesotians they have to choose when work and the environment? ♪ >> our digital producer, wajahat ali is here and he is bringing in all of your comments and questions via our social networks. waj is lot of people in our community didn't know about the controversy up north >> yeah, and as you know the
viewers of the show is the third host of the show, and a lot of people had no idea. kenya says . . . >> and a lot of our viewers don't know, lisa, you are also a cheese head from the midwest, happening. >> yeah, and when our gang was talk about this earlier today, we were all says in the great lake states it is not unusual to have different economies in the northern states and then farther down. so it's not surprising to me. >> and there's tremendous impact
and consequences of what will happen with the mining companies region. >> yeah, and we'll definitely get into that. >> yeah. >> the proposed copper and nickel mine has the state divided. the northern part of the state sits on some of the largest deposits. a company has suggested reopening a former copper mine. they have reached out to the public using social media in videos like to one. >> it could mean jobs billions in economic impact, and new life for fourth and fifth generation miners in these parts. >> but they are getting push back from some minnesotians. >> there is not single mine of this type that operates in sulfide ores that has done it without polluting its waters, not one. why would we really think this
could be done right here in such a water-rich environment. >> in a study state regulators concluded that if the mines open water will need to be treated for 500 years to be considered state. here to break this down is aaron brown, a long time resident of minnesota, betsy dob, and gerald tyler with an organization advocating for the mine and the jobs it will bring. we also invited polynet to join us and they declined. so why the controversy all of a sudden? what is different? >> the two things that are different really are the fact that 100-plus years of mining in minnesota has been related to iron.
we're called the iron range. and we have mined successfully and fruitfully for a very long time. i'm a fifth generation of my family to live on the iron range and the first one to have never worked in a mine, and that's how far back the mining history goes ash here. it's something people know and it has been the main reason a lot of people have come from all over the world to settle and make the towns we live in now. so this isn't iron, these are other minerals. and what is difference is the way they are mined. and that's where the controversy comes from. you are breaking up different kinds of rocks, you are processing the ore somewhat differently and it creates a runoff, and that's the concern, and the mining companies believe they can mitigate that runoff, and skeptics and opponents believe there is danger there,
that it can't be mitigated. and that's the controversy. >> betsy, i want to get to the specifics in a second, but this is important to people in the great lakes states and specifically in northeastern minnesota, but why should folks across the country care what is happening there? >> these proposals -- and there are two right now. the polynet proposal and there is another one as well in northern minnesota and what makes this of concern and interest to people all across the country is they are located in very water-rich environments in northern minnesota in a region that straddles our border with canada, and in particular, most of these propo -- proposals are planned for the superior national forest, and there is a place
called the boundary water forrest. over 250,000 people a year come from all over the world to experience this place. interconnected lakes and rivers, woods. this is wilderness, so there are not supposed to be signs of human developments. most of it so largely accessible by canoe. you get an experience that you can't get anywhere else. it's a national treasure, and so placing these polluting mines that have polluted elsewhere so close to the boundary waters canoe area wilderness and also close to lake superior, which is a global water resource as well, causes a great deal of concern for many people and -- and for all of the users of this wonderful place that come from all over the country and the world. elizabeth has been treating on all sorts of informed thoughts. she mentions . . .
and here is a great video comment from alexander. >> in the late 18900s the logging industry moves to minnesota and wiped out the forrests. they left dried branches which caused a huge wildfire that killed hundreds of people. now the mining companies say it's for the political and economic gain for the people up north, however, once the resources are gone the people will leave taking away job and destroyed. >> all right. you acknowledge these mines with bring jobs that are badly needed to minnesota, but what about the environmental impact? >> first of all let me respond
to betsy dobb's comment about the boundary waters and the copper mining. polymet is located directly south of the divide. the water that goes out from the polymet the water quality, if there is a water quality issue, is going to not effect the boundary waters. it's going to go into lake superior. the upper mine that she's talking about is five or six years away, and they haven't even completed the economic feasibility studies, and too often some of the environmentalists will conflate it and pretty soon we're talk about the boundary waters being effected by the polltymet mine. no such thing. water doesn't run uphill. let me tell you why the northeastern minnesota and especially the elli area and the
counties surrounding us. here in elle the median family income is $31,500. father south in aurora the median is $42,000. in 2010 the median income in the state of minnesota was 55,000, today it's something more like 59,000. but the elle area and the elle economy is not doing as well as it should. the first mining -- that sector contributes about 30% to the elle area economy. tourism contributes about 11%,
and forest products industry is 10%. the rest of the economy is about 43%, so it's contribution. >> i want to stop you there for a second, gerald. aaron the minnesota economy is very vulnerable and weak in a lot of places. how do you balance the current demand for these minerals particularly internationally environment? >> right. well, if i could just add something to what gerald was getting at, i think it's important to understand the particular conditions economically here in northern minnesota. in the early 1980s, we endured a huge economic blow when the american steel industry and mining industry really collapsed in on itself, and what the rest of the country experienced as a recession in the 1980s, northern mp
-- minnesota experienced as a recession. we lost half of our mining jobs since that time. that's not to paint a -- we still have other things going on, tourism. we have the medical sector and other things going on, but mining was the big thing, and it was -- it was hit hard. they have recovered in the iron mining sector through efficiencies mechanicization and technology. so when we talk about jobs in northern minnesota, it's the number one issue every election, every time, because people are still stuck. i was raised in the 1980s and 1990s, believing i couldn't come back here, and really a lot of my friends couldn't. we found ways, and i found a way, but it's not easy to do. and what you have on the range is a whole population dominated by people who have watched their
kids move away and want what anyone would want which is to have their kids come back and raise their kids and grandkids near them. and it's a driving political force. so when any new development comes through, a power plant, a mine, and they say they can give somebody a job, it has enormous political support. >> all right. when we come back, are we potentially polluting water to line the pockets of foreign companies. keep sending your comments in, break. ♪
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>> welcome back. we're talking about minnesota's mining controversy and how that debate has gone international. and a lot of companies looking to mine in minnesota are actually foreign. >> yeah, international corporations are proposing mines in minnesota, should local communities be concerned or encouraged. amy tweets in . . . good question. >> betsy, a lot of foreign companies invest in the united states. what are the specific concerns minnesota?
>> i think the largest concern is what this company has proposed. and it's proposal and -- and as it has analyzed it, and the agencies involved analyzed it, call for pollution -- identifies that this mine will generate pollution for at least 500 years and probably longer. this is app extremely worrisome when you start to analyze, short-term and long-term decision making. the economic well-being of northern minnesota is tied quite tightly to the environmental health of the region as well. and if we are now buying ourselves 500 years or longer of polluted water in a region that depends upon its natural resources for its economy, well-being, sustainability, we are planning a world of hurt for a very long time. one of the concerns we have is when we look around the country where this type of mining is
done -- and this would be new for minnesota. but where it has been done, it has always been associated -- always -- with water pollution and with financial problems that have plagued the mine and many, many times end up leaving huge financial burdens to the citizens of the state to try to deal with the pollution problems that are left behind when the mining companies leave. >> gerald, based on what betsy just said what gives you confidence that the mine canning be done safely and that these economic problems as an aftermath are not going to be incurred by the it is citizens of minnesota? >> betsy ignores the fact that there is a cooper nickel mine that operated in the county to the east -- the flambo mine. it operated. it produced, think 81 million
tons of copper/nickel. the environmentalists brought a lawsuit, and it was dismissed or found in favor of the mine company -- >> lisa if i could jump in there -- >> excuse me, i'm not finished. the chief justice of the wisconsin supreme court commended them for the job they did, and to assert that there has never been a copper nickel mine that has not pal luted is a fellatios statement. >> betsy. >> that mine has been found polluting by monitoring that has been done at that mine. the court rulings are about whether or not the mine company has violated its permit on legal technicalities, but there is no
dispute that that mine is polluting the waters around it. >> james says . . . >> aaron who is the responsibility of these international corporations to the local minnesota economy, the environment? >> i think that's a great question, and i think the local communities should demand some kind of protection in this matter. this essentially is a negotiation from the moment we start. the realization is there are these historic large stores of minerals we need and use every day -- i'm following the twitter stream on my device here. and it's full of minerals they want to mine. that's true.
but at the same time we're in a negotiation that those minerals and the land around it belong to the people and the state in particular, which is the people through their government. there are two things, the people are negotiating, the mining companies are negotiating for a product they need, want, and can sell on the marketplace, and can employ people. so we need minerals, and we need to protect our futures and communities need to look out for themselves, worry that the short-term conversation is so focused on we need the jobs now or stop the mines entirely and fails to find a way to ensure responsibility in mining. i think the sticking point is long-term mitigation, and the mines say they can control the runoff. i would like to believe them. do i know enough to know they
will, i'm afraid i don't, and that's the problem. >> he talks about the land belongs to the people. explain -- if these are protected areas, how are they negotiable with private companies in the first place? >> aaron is right. these are public lands. the proposals facing minnesota are on superior national forrest. they are proposals very, very close within areas where the water drains into the wilderness, so when and if pollution happens, there is the risk that it will be enter the wilderness area. the public lands they are national forest lands, and national forests are managed a little bit differently than national parks, so there are multiple uses, and mining is one of those. but the public does get a chance and has an opportunity here to weigh in about how to care for
those lands. aaron is 100% right that we all ought to have a part in this conversation. it is important that we weigh the costs and benefits just as mining companies weigh the costs and benefits when they are looking to develop an ore body. and if they decide those costs outweigh the benefits and leave town, they are not anti-job or anti-mining, they have made a calculation. minnesotians should have that same opportunity. >> when we come back -- let's talk a little bit more about this. is opening this new mine a short-term fix to a job problem that needs a long-term solution? tweet us what you think. break. ♪
understand what the risk and implications of the mines can be, and that doesn't seem like a very good way to make a decision. it's incredibly beautiful landscape. it's unique in minnesota, i just think that's something worth defending and passing along. >> welcome back. we're talking about proposed mine in minnesota that is generating controversy. and gerald you have been pushing for jobs in northern minnesota . but if the mining resources are finite is this really a long-term solution or does it just delay the inevitable? >> well, as one of the other interviewees mentioned, the minerals are owned by the people of minnesota actually through the state, and it's important to point out in 2011, mining industry contributed in the way
of production tax, royalties and so on, $152 million. out of that $64 million went to support our educational systems, both the university systems and the -- and the undergraduate schools, the high schools, and elementary schools. there are 11,226 people that depend upon fair is fining - mining and the wages and salaries that are paid. to talk about what that means the people here in direct wages that are paid. it means everything. and we believe that the copper-nickel mine, the polymet mine can be permitted responsibility by the state of
minnesota and the epa. we're not choosing between degrading the quality of our water, and -- and the need for jobs, or the -- the reason for having the mining take place in the first place. it's not either/or, we believe it can be done in a responsible matter, and we have the support of our congressional delegation, the state of minnesota, the others. >> is it possible for minnesota to move away from this mining economy? are people fixated on the past and afraid to let go of that? >> yeah, the reality is we lost 60% of our mining jobs after the collapse in the early 1980s, to the tune of thousands of jobs -- close to 10,000 jobs lost, and these are the best jobs in the commune tease.
and these new projects -- but particularly polymet because it is the only one that is close to being able to be permitted. polymet would produce a lovely number of jobs, but not nearly enough to make up for the huge losses we have had since the 1980s. so i think the real issue is whether we mine or not, the iron range of northern minnesota must diversify if these communities are to be sustained in their current form. it has been the big challenge for decades. ew davis the founder of the process that saved the area from dying out in the 50s was the first to say these towns are locked into mining and they will die by mining unless they figure out something else to do.
so it's not that mining is bad. mining is a necessary part of being a human in this world. the issue is the cost benefit anal sis and how do we diversify in the future. >> betsy we have about 30 seconds left. >> sure, echo aaron's thoughts benefits. the mine in 2007 had a disastrous pollution issue and effected 18 miles of stream. if that happens around -- >> ten seconds. >> 500 years of pollution doesn't seem very responsible. >> that is all the time we have. thanks so much for all of our guests for a great discussion. until next time, waj and i will see you online. ♪
united in their ager. u.s. spying claims overshadowed european union talks in brussels. ♪ ♪ hello, i am jonah hull in doha, the other top stories here in al jazerra. appeal rejected. a court in china upholds a life sentence against disgraced politician bo. plus. >> reporter: i an report on the ground how they are coping with a political and economic crisis that could be resolved with friday's presidential election. and